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Evanston Elks Lodge: No Hispanic Renters Wanted

Evanston Elks Lodge: No Hispanic Renters Wanted

Posted - Sep. 15, 2003 at 9:35 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst reportingThe manager of the Elks Lodge in Evanston has created a stir by refusing to rent the club to Hispanics.

Although both sides in the dispute are talking peace and negotiating a compromise, the manager isn't backing down from what some consider a racial stereotype.

The Evanston Elks Lodge is rented a few times each year by outside groups. Here they're preparing for a Farm Bureau get-together.

But last week a Hispanic family tried to rent the place for a combination birthday and retirement party.

Tony Yapias/ Salt Lake City Resident: "ALL WE WERE TRYING TO DO IS HAVE A CELEBRATION, SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR MY DAD."

Tony Yapias's sister made the call to the Lodge.

Tony Yapias: "IT WAS A BLATANT RESPONSE, SAYING 'WE DON'T RENT TO SPANISH PEOPLE'."

Elks manager Lynn Nelson doesn't dispute that.

Lynn Nelson/ Elks Club Manager: "I LET THEM KNOW WE WASN'T GOING TO DO ANY MORE SPANISH DANCES AND FUNCTIONS AT THIS TIME BECAUSE OF THE PROBLEMS WE HAD IN THE PAST WITH THEM."

Nelson says he's not a racist. There are Hispanic Elks, he says. And the lodge does charitable work for Latinos.

Lynn Nelson/ Elks Club Manager: "AND MOST OF THEM ARE JUST MODEL CITIZENS, THAT I KNOW UP HERE. THE PROBLEM WE HAVE IS WITH THE FEW THAT COME UP HERE AND ACT UNCIVILIZED."

Lynn Nelson/ Elks Club Manager: "WE'VE HAD KNIVES PULLED IN THE BUILDING, FIGHTS OUT IN THE PARKING LOT. AND FRANKLY, THEY DRINK TOO MUCH BEER AND THEY GET OUT OF CONTROL. THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE."

Tony Yapias: "IT WAS AN UNFORTUNATE EVENT. I FEEL THAT THE LATINOS IN EVANSTON WERE STEREOTYPED IN A WAY THAT WE'RE ALL TROUBLEMAKERS AND CAUSING PROBLEMS."

Tony Yapias happens to be Utah's Director of Hispanic Affairs. He says he hopes not to file a lawsuit. Instead he sat down with Nelson to negotiate, and both sides feel they're making progress toward some sort of compromise.

Tony Yapias: "IF THAT DOESN'T WORK, WE'LL KEEP OUR OPTIONS OPEN."

Nelson says he'll consider letting Hispanics rent the club if protections can be worked out. Higher fees, perhaps, and damage deposits, security guards, a code of conduct agreed to in advance.

Lynn Nelson: "AND I GUESS MAYBE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET SOMEBODY WHO SPEAKS SPANISH, BECAUSE MAYBE SOMETHING'S GOING TO GET LOST IN TRANSLATION."

While the discussions continue, the policy of the Elks Lodge has not changed. Nelson said if a Hispanic group tried to book the place today, he'd put them off pending further discussions.

No timetable has been set for future discussions.

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